Abstract

While psychological safety is a consistent, generalizable, and multilevel predictor of outcomes in team performance across fields that can positively impact the creative process, there have been limited investigations of psychological safety in the engineering domain. Without this knowledge, we do not know whether fostering psychological safety in a team environment is important for specific engineering design outputs from concept generation and screening practices. This study provides one of the first attempts at addressing this research gap through an empirical study with 69 engineering design student teams over the course of 4- and 8-week design projects. Specifically, we sought to identify the role of psychological safety on the number and quality (judged by goodness) of ideas generated. In addition, we explored the role of psychological safety on ownership bias and goodness in the concept screening process. The results of the study identified that while psychological safety was negatively related to the number of ideas a team developed, it was positively related to the quality (goodness) of the ideas developed. This result indicates that while psychological safety may not increase team productivity in terms of the number of ideas produced, it may impact team effectiveness in coming up with viable candidate ideas to move forward in the design process. In addition, there was no relationship between psychological safety and ownership bias during concept screening. These findings provide quantitative evidence on the role of psychological safety on engineering team idea production and identify areas for further study.

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